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Theater director Evgeniya Berkovich remanded to two months behind bars in “terrorism justification” case

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Evgeniya Berkovich, director of the play Finist, The Brave Falcon (“Finist, Yasny Sokol”) has been sent to a pre-trial detention center for two months as she awaits her sentence in a “terrorism justification” case. Russian authorities launched a criminal investigation against Berkovich and scriptwriter Svetlana Petriychuk following a report from the “National Liberation Movement of Russia” (“Natsionalno-osvoboditelboye Dzvizhenie Rossii”, or NOD). The court hearing was broadcast by independent media outlet Mediazona.

Judge Natalia Cheprasova will consider the evidence in the case against Berkovich and Petriychuk separately.

Close to a hundred people gathered outside Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court, where the hearings were held. Some of them signed personal guarantees, which the defence then requested be attached to the case. Guarantees were provided by cultural figures and human rights activists, including actors Oleg Menshikov and Veniamin Smekhov, media personality Ksenia Sobchak, philanthropist Nyuta Federmesser, film director Alexander Lungin, himan rights activist Elena Panfilova, actor Maxim Vitorgan, journalist Arina Borodina and theater director Konstantin Raikin.

The hearing was due to start at 14:00 Moscow time, but was delayed as the case materials did not arrive in court in time. Multiple media outlets and Telegram channels published photos from the scene.

Meduza earlier examined the “complex destructological forensic expertise” in the Berkovich and Petrychuk case, which claimed that “radical feminism” is as dangerous as the Islamic State. The creator of the “destructology” pseudoscience Roman Silantyev (listed in the file as a “historian and religious destructologist”), as well as “linguist-destructologist” Galina Khizrieva and “destructologist, clinical psychologist, and sociologist” Elena Zamyshevskaya, took part in the expertise. The “experts” concluded that the script and the play contained “indications of the justification of terrorism.” According to the experts, the participation of the play’s central female figures in ISIS “is justified by the heroines’ girlish naivety and desire to have a family” as well as “overwhelming passion/love.” The excerpts of the expertise published by Mediazona also state that play “may have an ideological or psychological impact on the audience and induce them to take actions aimed at destabilising the activities of the authorities of the Russian Federation.”

Berkovich being led through Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court
Berkovich being led through Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court

On 4 May, Berkovich and Petriychuk were detained in Moscow for “justifying terrorism.” The pair was reported to the authorities by members of the National Liberation Movement ( over the play Finist Yasny Sokol – in the play, women from Russia who have decided to marry Islamists travel to Syria, where they are subsequently recruited by militants. The authors of the report complained, among other things, that the actors did not verbally declare the ban on ISIS in Russia during the play [ISIS is an extremist organization banned in Russia, and every mention of it in media reports, broadcasts and public performances has to be supplemented with a disclaimer about its status – The Insider]. The play premiered in 2020, and was awarded the Golden Mask theatre prize – one of Russia’s most prestigious awards in the field. Both Berkovich and Petriychuk were initially released after being interrogated, but were almost immediately detained again as suspects.

The National Liberation Movement, or NOD, is a pro-Putin nationalist political movement. Founded in 2011 by “ultra-patriotic” State Duma deputy Nikolay Fyodorov, the group aims to fight Russia's “enemies from within.” NOD has aggressively protested against Russia’s perceived enemies: the U.S. Embassy, opposition politicians, artists criticizing state censorship, and even foreign audit firms working in Russia.

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